“Deadliest Catch” Crewmember Wins $1.35 Million Jury Verdict

July 26, 2017

According to reports, a crab fisherman who previously worked onboard the Time Bandit – one of the crabbing vessels featured on the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” – received a $1.35 million jury verdict after being injured in a fireworks accident. The award reflected the jury’s determination that the fisherman, David Zielinksi, was partially at fault for causing his own injuries.

As reported, Zielinski suffered multiple fractures in his arm and hand when a firework he was holding exploded prematurely. Zielinski was reportedly shooting off the fireworks at his employer’s (the vessel owner’s) direction, possibly as part of a “firework fight” staged between the Time Bandit and another vessel for the show. After the firework exploded, Zielinski was airlifted back to the land in Alaska, and he later underwent several reconstructive surgeries in Seattle, WA. In the lawsuit, Zielinski alleged he is no longer able to work as a commercial crabber due to the lasting effects of his injuries.

The Law of Seaworthiness and Safety Offshore

Under maritime law, commercial ship owners have a legal duty to maintain their vessels in a “seaworthy” condition. While the law of seaworthiness imposes an obligation to ensure that the vessel itself is properly equipped and maintained, it also requires vessel owners to properly supervise and train their crew in order to avoid creating hazardous situations that put crew members’ health and safety at risk. Directing employees to dangerous fireworks toward another ship could certainly be considered an unsafe practice that could support a claim for financial compensation.

$2.7 Million Verdict Reduced for “Comparative Fault”

Despite finding that the Time Bandit’s owners were responsible for the incident, the jury also concluded that Zielinski was partially to blame. As a result, while it calculated his total losses at $2.7 million, it reduced his award to $1.35 million under the principle of “comparative fault.” Several states, including Texas, have comparative fault laws that allow accident victims to recover partial compensation even if they are partially to blame for their injuries.

Cases like this one demonstrate how important it is for injury victims to seek legal representation. Even if you were injured while doing something that was perhaps ill-advised (like setting off custom-made fireworks), you could still be entitled to a full financial recovery. Maritime and personal injury laws are complicated, but they are ultimately designed to ensure that injury victims receive just compensation. The law of seaworthiness, the Jones Act, and other federal statutes provide special protections for maritime workers, and in many cases, workers will be entitled to compensation without the need to prove fault or negligence on the part of another party.

Contact a Houston Offshore Injury Lawyer Today

If you were injured working offshore and would like to speak with an attorney about your rights, we encourage you to contact us for a free and consultation. To speak with an offshore injury lawyer at Morrow & Sheppard LLP, please call (800) 489-2216 or tell us about your accident online today.

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